Ginger Valentine: Stripper’s Holiday 2012
This is the story of ten strippers picked to live in a house…
Since attending Michelle L’amour‘s Stripper’s Holiday I’ve made (and heard) plenty of Real World jokes while fondly discussing this very special week of cohabitation, artistic exploration and growth for burlesque performers. And while it helps my listener draw their own outrageous conclusions, I know that the reality is that we dance all day long and hardly have any time at all for the pillow fights, snuggle sessions, and other nude, glittery shenanigans they imagine… At least not the very first day!
Stripper’s Holiday is a burlesque intensive created by Michelle L’amour that offers instruction and focused study, while also providing a fun performance opportunity, and raises funds to benefit the Burlesque Hall of Fame. It’s eighteen hours of classes and workshops with a benefit show at the end. It’s kind of like summer camp, boot camp and a stripper sleepover all rolled into one. I have been going since 2009 and every year I keep coming back for the fun, the study and the food (yes, the food).
“Stripper’s Holiday continues to be one of the most valuable things I do to invest in myself and my career.”
When I was first invited, I was brand new to burlesque and a little (okay, a lot) intimidated to go to Chicago for a week to study this new-to-me art form with people I hardly knew, or didn’t know at all. Ophelia Flame, Tatah DuJour, Fannie Spankings, Mia Vixen and myself made up the class of 2009. In those few days I formed lifelong friendships and learned so much I couldn’t write it all down fast enough. I knew that I had been changed irrevocably, and that if I could, I would be coming back the next year. I haven’t missed one since and Stripper’s Holiday continues to be one of the most valuable things I do to invest in myself and my career.
This year Stripper’s Holiday 4 featured an international band of performers. Kay Sera (Baltimore), Freya West (Nashville), Dolly Derringer (Athens, OH), Viva Valezz (Columbus), Red Velvet (San Francisco), Wild Card Kitty (Glascow), and Angi B Lovely, Black Mariah, Missy Lisa and myself (Dallas) completed nearly twenty hours of studio time studying technique and work shopping our solos. We also learned a group number which we performed together at the end of the week – a first for Stripper’s Holiday. In addition to the sweating, the bumping, the grinding and rehearsing, we managed to have a dance movie marathon and toss back one bottle of tequila, sixteen bottles of wine and five bottles of bourbon. This week is not for the faint of heart!
Stripper’s Holiday focuses strongly on physicality and quality of movement. We practice technique daily and study choreography and music theory. A little strength training and conditioning is thrown into the mix and at the end of each day, Michelle works with us one-on-one on a solo. All of that makes for a very dense three days of study! It’s fun yet very challenging and your muscles will be sore, but at the end of the week you’re lean and mean.
After classes are done we cram into a car or two and head back to Michelle’s house where we all stay. We shower, change and eat a very well deserved home cooked dinner and drink a glass or two of wine and a glass or two of bourbon (hey, strippin’ burns a lot of calories). Night time is fun because everyone gets to know each other. Things are kind of quiet at the beginning of the week, but the ice breaks and everyone starts to loosen up. At the end, we all perform in a burlesque show with Michelle and the Chicago Starlets (This year World Famous Bob emceed and Bazuka Joe and Jett Adore joined the cast). By the end of the week you feel as if you’ve known everyone for ages – it’s a very intimate experience.
We are literally burning hundreds of calories, so Michelle keeps us properly fuelled. The food at Stripper’s Holiday is so excellent because it is all home made. Each year, Michelle, Franky, the Starlets and even Mama L’amour all spoil us rotten with some of the best food you can imagine: slow cooked brisket, crepes with strawberries, home made rolls, waffles, real bacon, strong coffee and bourbon. And that’s just a small example. Franky Vivid was the head cook for this year and he did an outstanding job. Click here to read a complete list of the food that was consumed in year four.
In my twenty years of being a dance student, Michelle L’amour is one of the very best teachers I’ve had. Her passion for this wonderful art form is relentless and infectious. She is more than just a master; she is also an excellent teacher, skilled in helping all kinds of performers reach their potential, even in a short period of time. She transforms us all, with all our different backgrounds, skill levels and performance styles into our very best stripping selves and that is what really happens at Stripper’s Holiday (right after the glittery shenanigans!)